Salivary glands are responsible for the production of saliva, which lubricates the food you chew and contains enzymes necessary for digestion. There are three types of salivary glands named for their location:

Parotid glands are located in the cheeks in front of the ear and are the most common site for a salivary gland tumor.

Sublingual glands are located under the tongue.

Submandibular salivary glands are located under the chin.

Salivary gland tumors can be malignant (cancerous) but most are benign (noncancerous), and both types require treatment.

Ear Nose Throat specialty national ranking badgeSalivary gland tumor at UK Markey Cancer Center

Markey’s salivary gland tumor team provides expert consultation and ongoing care for patients with salivary gland tumors.

While salivary gland tumors are very rare, our doctors and providers have the region’s most experience in the diagnosis and treatment of these tumors. Our team includes:

Counselors and social workers

Ear, nose and throat doctors (otolaryngologists), dedicated to cancers within the head and neck

Medical and radiation oncologists who specialize in head and neck cancer treatment

Speech pathologists and physical therapists

Using state-of-the-art technology and leading-edge medical and surgical interventions, the salivary gland tumor team provides advanced and timely diagnosis and individualized, ongoing care for patients. Each patient is cared for by a team of specialists who meet regularly to discuss individual patient cases and treatment plans. This multidisciplinary team will work with you and your doctor to coordinate a care plan designed to offer the best outcomes.

Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.

Salivary gland tumors can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • A lump or swelling on the cheek, under the chin, under the tongue, at the jawline or on the neck
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Facial asymmetry, where the face is not the same on both sides
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Numbness or weakness in the face
  • Persistent pain in the cheek, jaw, mouth, neck or ear
  • Unexplained weight loss

According to the American Cancer Society, if you combine all categories/stages of salivary gland cancer, the overall relative five-year survival rate is 75 percent. Localized salivary gland cancers are found only in the salivary gland with no spread to other tissues and have a survival rate of 95 percent. Regional salivary gland cancers affect the salivary gland and some nearby tissues or lymph nodes and have a survival rate of 69 percent. Distant salivary gland cancers affect the salivary glands and cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body , and distant salivary gland cancer have a survival rate of 44 percent.

You can lower your risk of cancer by taking steps to build a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways you can lower your risk for this disease, as well as improve your overall basic health:

  • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.
  • Advanced age
  • Being a male
  • Combined use of tobacco and alcohol
  • Family history
  • History of Epstein-Barr virus infection, the virus that causes mononucleosis
  • Radiation exposure (medical or environmental)
  • For your first visit, you will be directed to the head, neck and respiratory clinic in the Ben F. Roach Cancer Care Facility.
  • You can register at the front desk or registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
  • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
  • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
  • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.

Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. At Markey, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat cancer – one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating salivary gland cancer below.

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.